January 05, 2013

Whitaker, Trammell, Gibson …

"Lou … Lou … Lou…"

Lou Whitaker, #1
The first time you heard it you wondered why the crowd would "Boo" so loud. You wondered how bad the player must have been. Whitaker was the Rookie of the Year and it seemed like he was always on the All Star team. He was a solid lead off hitter, incredible second baseman, and unique teammate.

Whitaker always seemed like he was aloof. Tigers fans always thought Whitaker gave less than full effort. We often said that, "If he would only give 100% …" His statistics were always top notch, among the best for second sackers. Plus, he lasted in Detroit nearly 20 years. He only played for one franchise.

Alan Trammell, Mickey Tettleton, Jack Morris, and Kirk Gibson at Jacobs Field in Cleveland on August 1, 1994. Today, I'll write about the memories I have of Whitaker and follow up with Trammell tomorrow. 
His detractors say the game came too easy for him. Of course, there are those who point out how he forgot his uniform for the World Series one year in the '80s. He had to write "1" on the back of his store–bought "D" jersey with a sharpie. I think he even wore a Tigers trucker hat that year. Heck, we're talking about a guy who Sparky Anderson once decided to move to third base to make room for Chris Pittaro.

I've often wondered what Whitaker did "wrong" according to the Tigers organization because after he "retired" following the 1995 season, he just faded. He appears once in a while at the Tigers Spring Trainings, but he has never had an official capacity with the team after retiring.

Whitaker once signed a baseball card for me, bent the corner of the card and circled a checkmark before handing the signed Topps card back to me. I always wondered if that was to authenticate it or just be a jerk. He fell off the Hall of Fame ballot the first year he was eligible — and this is a total travesty. Whitaker deserves serious consideration for the HOF. I'm not certain he is a HOFer, but he had an incredible career in one city.

He could hit, hit for power, run, and field. He was a solid ballplayer. He wouldn't have been considered a leader — and probably was considered a bit strange by his teammates. I've never read a specific article about that, but read and heard many references during his career. The think I've always wondered, though, is what he did to, about, or around the Tigers organization that basically has him banished from the "family."

Tomorrow, I'll write about Alan Trammell, Whitaker's double play partner for much of their careers. 

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